St Matthew's seems to have quite a buzz about it at the moment. Here's why I am in good heart as we stand at the start of 2012, wondering what may lie ahead:
· Things are really taking off with our families and children! Liz Burley our new worker launched Messy Church just over a year ago, loads of people are coming and there's always a great atmosphere. Children's Church is growing on Sunday mornings and we had an amazing holiday club last summer (another to follow this year).
· We now have a youth worker, Lee, for the first time for years. Lee has launched Youth Church on Sunday mornings and has got involved with Blue Coat school. He has linked up with the Faithworks team who are working with young people across Walsall. The new night café is attracting 30 or so young people with no church roots to the St Matthew's Centre every Friday night and is still growing.
· The young people of Church Hill Praise continue to inspire me with their fire and passion! They fill me with hope for the future.
· We've had a great Alpha Course with over 40 participants, thanks in no small measure to our curate Liz, who organised it. She has been breath of fresh air.
· St Matthew's Centre is booming under the leadership of manager Adrian Perks. There seem to be more and more community users in there all the time (and even two or three other churches who hire our premises)
· Our Asian congregation are in good heart too – their local radio broadcasts are great!
· I particularly feel this when I see our members supporting , helping and caring for each other because then I know that the Gospel is being lived out among us.
So I think, by the grace of God, we are an inspiring community to belong to. The question that bothers me is, what holds others back from joining in? It has surprised me to discover that many people feel they need permission to come to church. Several times lately I have been asked, "am I allowed to come to church?" Sometimes it's because the building seems so imposing, sometimes because people don't know what goes on in there and are worried they won't fit in, sometimes because they weren't baptised, sometimes because a vicar has been unhelpful or even rude to them in the past… But whatever the reason, it's not good enough. Because the heart of the Gospel is that Jesus welcomes everyone – especially sinners. He said, "Whoever comes to me, I will never send away" (John 6:37). So you are all allowed, by express permission of the King of kings!